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The Lookout marks the directorial debut of Oscar nominated screenwriter Scott Frank. And what a fine first effort it is. We've come to know and appreciate Frank's writing skills from such thrillers as Dead Again, Little Man Tate, and Out of Sight, so it's not too surprising to know that he was responsible for The Lookout's exciting script. But what is amazing is that he also directed the film while avoiding most of the trappings that befall so many first-time helmers.

The Lookout is a little difficult to classify, as it is an exciting thriller that involves an elaborate bank heist, but it is also a mesmerizing character drama piece that draws us in with interesting, complex characters that we get to know so well and care so much about a typically nonexistent trait of most thrillers. And that's where Frank finds so much success with his film. He blends nail-biting action with heartbreaking human insight into what happens to people when things don't quite work out like we imagined.

The title character is Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a former star athlete who had everything going for him until he plowed his sports car into a stalled combine on the side of the road, killing two of his friends, maiming his girlfriend and leaving himself with permanent brain damage that complicates his life down to the minutest of aspects. Left with virtually no short-term memory, nor the capability to perform even the simplest of social tasks, Chris' inner struggles are so expressively displayed across Gordon-Levitt's face. Chris went from the kid who students three years his senior wished they could be, to a wounded shell of his former self that's reduced to referencing Post-it Note reminders on such simple everyday tasks as turning off his alarm clock and remembering to lock the door.

Chris eventually hooks up with Gary (Matthew Goode) a smooth talking con man who plays on Chris' insecurities and social inhibitions to enlist him to participate in an elaborate scheme to knock-off the bank where Chris works as a night janitor. Gary's plan involves a lecherous band of ne'er do wells that manages to befriend Chris despite the suspicions and warnings of his blind roommate, Lewis (Jeff Daniels) who acts as Chris' guide and mentor. We remember Goode's wonderful performance as the wealthy fiancée of Scarlet Johansson's character in Matchpoint, and here he's quite believable as well in his chameleon-like skin as both a charming shyster and as the devilish snake that he really is. Frank's writing really shines here, as the relationship between Chris and Gary must be completely believable for the whole plot to work. If we don't buy it, the entire film falls on its face.

Gary seems like a great pal to Chris, even throwing a hot girl his way in the form of Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher), a former exotic dancer that lures Chris into the scheme, hook, line, and sinker. Despite his mental disabilities, Chris knows exactly what he's getting into, but sees his participation as a way of gaining the respect he once had.

Scott Frank deserves complete credit for the success of The Lookout. His writing harkens back to the old school of film scribes - back when storytellers spent precious screen time building characters before sending them on their journey. Seems like too often these days, filmmakers are under too much pressure to be commercially successful and forgo the most important aspects of telling a story. Not the case here. As a result, The Lookout claims a spot in the young 2007 movie season as one of the year's best films.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 presentation

Subtitles: Spanish; French

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: DTS 5.1 Surround; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary.

* Commentary
o With writer/director Scott Frank and director of photography Alar Kivilo
* Featurettes
o Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt (9:26)
o Sequencing The Lookout

Number of discs: - 1 with Keepcase Packaging